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Another UK outlet suspends selling avocados from Kakuzi

By Kamau Muthoni | October 18th 2020

Another supermarket in the UK has suspended Kakuzi dealership over claims of human rights abuse. Lidl supermarket has closed its doors to Kakuzi avocados terming the allegations against the firm’s guards as serious.

The firm, in its response to The Sunday Standard, said it has suspended Kakuzi’s contract until further investigations are undertaken.

"Following the most recent allegations, we have temporarily suspended our supply from the grower while further investigations are undertaken," Lidl communication manager Glenda Rochead said.

"We recognise that human rights' due diligence is an ongoing process and we are committed to continuing to support our working group partners to address this issue moving forward."

From Lidl’s reply, it emerges that investigations into the avocado market exploitation and human rights abuse had started long before the Kakuzi case.

"Along with several other retailers and suppliers and NGOs, we have supported a working group to ensure that issues within our avocado supply chain are independently investigated and which a detailed action plan was agreed,’’ Lidl added.

Another major UK supermarket is also said to have suspended Kakuzi’s dealership but it was yet to respond to our queries.

Lidl joins Tesco supermarket, which banned Kakuzi’s avocados immediately after reports went out saying 79 Kenyans were suing Kakuzi’s parent company Camellia PLC in the UK over human rights abuse by the firm’s employees.

The 79 victims include former employees of Kakuzi, and women and girls who were allegedly raped by the company guards after being caught collecting fuel wood on the firm’s land.

Some are said to have contracted STIs or became pregnant. The firm will be facing 10 women and girls, including two who are under age

Kakuzi denied the allegations saying that the alleged victims have not reported their cases to Kenyan authorities.

At the same time, Kakuzi distanced itself from Camellia, saying it was owned by at least 1,300 Kenyans, who were the majority shareholders.

"… As far as we know, these accusations have never been reported to Kakuzi or Kenyan authorities. The claims having been made anonymously have hindered any investigations to get justice for those who seek it,” Kakuzi replied.

"It has now become clear that the strategy is instead to run a smear campaign against Kakuzi and some of its customers.”

The firm, which supplies several UK retailers with avocados, said the only way to deal with the alleged atrocities is by investigating its employees, cooperating with authorities and making amends where it can.

"That is the proper way of dealing with allegations,” Kakuzi said.

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